Local Bishop Remembers MLK Assassination

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Wednesday marked the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a Cleveland religious leader says he was a witness to one of the saddest chapters in American history.

Bishop J. Delano Ellis, the senior pastor of Cleveland's Pentecostal Church of Christ, was a 25-year-old minister in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, and took part in the civil rights movement led by Dr. King.

Bishop Ellis told Fox 8, "It was a church that could only pay me -- this is legendary -- 40 dollars a week."

To supplement his income, Ellis got a job at a black-owned cab company, and on April 4, 1968, was dispatched to the Lorraine Motel to pick up Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young. He then heard what he thought was a car backfiring.

"But then somebody, a lady screamed, 'Oh my God,' " said Bishop Ellis. "I jumped out of the car to look, and Martin Luther King had been shot. His foot was coming through the rail at the balcony."

In the aftermath of the shooting, Bishop Ellis says he and other bystanders were beaten by Memphis police. Soon, anger over the assassination of Martin Luther King would be felt across Memphis and the country.

"The world was being turned upside down: windows were shattering; innocent white people were being dragged out of cars and being beaten to bloody pulps, and I'm looking at this, and it's like a race of people went mad overnight," he said.

According to Bishop Ellis, he has never delivered a sermon about that day in Memphis because of the anger and pain it still evokes.

"You saw an American hero shot and killed by another American," said Ellis.

Forty-four years later, Bishop Ellis says he wishes he had not been a witness to the painful chapter in American history, but is grateful for Dr. King's contributions to mankind.

He concluded, "I hate that he had to give up his life, but there's nothing worth living for, if it's not worth dying for."